Ryanair ratchets up war on data-scraping travel sites

ryanair 2Ryanair is continuing its pursuit of travel websites it claims are bypassing the airline’s online security system to “data-scrape” fares, with Booking.com the latest to be slapped with a writ, following similar action against Expedia, Kiwi.com and Cologne Bonn Airport.

In a court case filed in the US, Ryanair claims that its brand is being damaged by the Booking.com’s actions and is seeking a trial by jury in Delaware.

The case is part of a long-running battle to stop travel sites accessing Ryanair flights and then selling them on to customers, in many cases charging extra fees that inevitably result in higher air fares.

Ryanair has yet to comment on the Expedia case but, according to its website, the airline licenses access to price, flight and timetable information for price comparison purposes only. It says it will, in the interests of its passengers, “continue to prohibit, as it always has, the re-selling of its flights”.

The airline’s controversial group chief executive Michael O’Leary, who regularly gives rivals “both barrels”, has previously threatened to eliminate third-party booking sites, which he branded useless.

Speaking at the Future Travel Experience conference in Dublin in 2017, O’Leary said: “The future of air travel is that the clever airlines are going to ‘own’ the customer. It’s not going to be owned by some bloody disintermediator… We own the future of travel. Nobody else is going to come remotely bloody close to us because nobody else is going to get remotely close to either our costs or our fares.”

O’Leary said that the majority of travellers plan their holidays around the price of an airfare, insisting that airlines “screw up” by letting passengers get overcharged by third-party sites.

“There’s a unique opportunity for the airlines to continue to develop and grab hold of the customer,” he added. “The airlines have been historically awful at developing customer relationships.”

Within weeks, in December of the same year, Ryanair filed a lawsuit accusing Expedia of illegally scraping information from its website to offer flights, in contravention of the airline’s policy.

However, Expedia counter-sued, accusing Ryanair of “improperly using its monopoly position in the flights markets to eliminate competition in other markets, including the markets for flight/hotel/car packages”.

Last August, filings in a federal court in Seattle revealed that both parties had agreed to voluntarily dismiss the case. A spokesperson for Expedia Group confirmed that the companies had reached a settlement but said the terms were confidential.

Even so, Ryanair also launched legal proceedings in the Irish High Court against Germany’s Cologne Bonn Airport and Czech Republic-based travel booking website Kiwi.com.

Kiwi.com provides a third-party flight booking service, as well as car and hotel booking services, in partnership with Rentalcars.com and Booking.com. Meanwhile, Cologne Bonn Airport recently embedded Kiwi.com’s technology on its website, in a move designed to simplify the flight booking process for passengers who wish to combine flights with different airlines.

None of the three parties involved have so far commented on this case either, which has yet to be heard.

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